Editors Note: We got another heater from our new Monday correspondent Rodolfo Balzac. This time giving us his own touching tribute to Derek Jeter.
Yesterday marked two relatively benign occasions in 2017. In New York, Derek Jeter had his number retired, marking the official end of his ascent to true Yankee-dom. In Toronto, I celebrated Mother’s Day at the Rogers Centre SkyDome. On the whole, it was a good day (any day that involves walk-off home runs and drinking at 11 AM usually ends up as much). But at some point in between innings, they had a clip on the Jumbotron where a bunch of players wished their mom’s a happy Mother’s Day and gave some superlatives about how great they were. So I turned to my mom, and said without hesitation, “hey, can you pass me that bag of peanuts?”
Even though she didn’t act too offended (nor was she), she said “at some point, you used to be nice.” And then I thought about it – when did I become the generally insufferable asshole I am today? And the answer, in a way, links back to the ol’ Captain.
First, a bit of scene setting is in order. When I was 13, I was the type of loser sports fan that I would make fun of endlessly now. Even though I was a die-hard Blue Jay supporter, my favourite player was divisional rival Nomar Garciaparra. I stanned as much as I could for Brett Favre. I didn’t watch a single Raptor game for their first few years of existence, but then magically became a huge fan when Vince Carter showed up. Just a general lack of commitment all around.
I was also a teacher’s pet, a complete straight-A student, never swore, and beyond petrified of any girl at the school dance. In other words, I was a goddamn dweeb. The only things that saved me from hanging upside down from the bathroom stalls everyday were that I could hold my own in most sports, and more importantly that I went to a school with a bunch of upper-middle class white/asian kids who were too lazy to do that kind of stuff anyways. However, this also made me a nice person. Too nice of a person.
The Blue Jays opened the 2003 season at home against the Yankees, and even though the team had zero promise at the time, there was no way I was missing a home opener. So my parents looked online, and bought tickets in the ‘200 level family section,’ which was also the cheapest section in the stadium. To anyone who has been to a Blue Jay home opener recently, calling the cheapest seats in the park the ‘family section’ is a terrible idea. Families shouldn’t come within 1000 feet of the least expensive seats on opening day. The last time I sat in the cheap seats for a home opener I saw a 250 pound man boo the Canadian anthem and then get his nose broken by a 100 pound woman. It’s a great time.
The other good thing about the ’03 opener was there was some controversy. Hideki Matsui was making his debut for New York after signing a three year contract from Japan, and came in with as much hype as the last big ticket import from the country, Ichiro Suzuki. Since these were the dark times in Blue Jay history, and the home opener was by no means a guarantee to be a sellout, the marketing team went big, putting a huge BOO MATSUI ad with a Yankee hat covered in bird droppings in all the major Toronto papers. Everyone in the New York organization got irrationally angry at this, to the point where Joe Torre claimed ‘I thought it was tasteless, especially in the climate of what’s going on in the world,’ which I can only infer as him saying that the bird droppings represented the bombs being dropped on innocent Iraqis. But I digress.
Needless to say, the ‘family section’ was exactly as expected. A lot of booing Matsui. A lot of excessively drunk 19-30 year olds. And a lot of…”questionable” heckling. I definitely remember one guy repeatedly pointing at Torre and yelling ‘I FOUND SADAAM!!’ (perhaps he interpreted the comments the same as I did).
The game itself wasn’t much, until the top of the third inning. With Jeter on base, Jason Giambi hit a comebacker to Roy Halladay, who took the easy out at first. However, due to the massive shift, there was no one covering third. Using that classic Yankee hustle that earned him a career 382.4 GRIT, Jeter turned the corner at second and raced Blue Jay catcher Ken Huckaby towards third. The throw and the runner arrived at pretty much the exact same time, so Huckaby (illegally) blocked the base, in turn planting his left shin pad directly into Jeter’s shoulder. The Yankee shortstop rolled off the bag, writhing in pain, and laid there for 10 minutes. In retrospect, he was seriously injured (and ended up being out for six weeks). But at the time, I was pissed. I’m there to see some good baseballing and now this guy gets a little bump on the shoulder and needs to not only lie there for 10 minutes but get the golf cart to drive him off the field? So combined with the drunk heckling all around me, I did the only sensible thing an enraged 13 year old with a lot of pent up anger does in the situation. I looked around, stood up and yelled as loud as I could:
‘FUCK YOU, JETER!’
I guess I expected admonishment, for my parents to turn, mouths agape and proclaim ‘well I can’t believe young Rodolfo would say such a thing!’ before marching me out of the stadium, banning me from attending sporting events and forcing me into some sort of dark timeline life. But instead they just…kind of laughed. And shook their heads, but mostly laughed. And the guy beside me looked at me and then said ‘yeah, fuck you Jeter!’ And then the row behind started chanting ‘fuck you Je-ter clap clap clap-clap-clap’ and before you knew it the entirety of the 200 level family section was at it in full force, yelling obscenities at a clearly dejected man with his head down being slowly taken off the field in a cart. It was easily the high point of my sports attending life to that point.
I went to school the next day and regaled my classmates with my story (exactly zero of them believed me). But it didn’t matter – I had started to become a bit more of an asshole. Then I became an asshole. Then I became too much of an asshole and it got out of hand for a bit, but now I’ve settled back into the acceptable range of assholeness. And it all began on that late March night in 2003.
So to my mother – I am sorry for not being as nice now as I once was. And to Derek Jeter, I tip my cap to you not for getting your number retired, but for ever-so-slightly helping me become the person I am today. Re2pect.